Tree Cabling Guide – Pros, Cons & Standard Procedures

In this tree cabling guide, I will be giving you information on the pros and cons, as well as the process involved.

For those who don’t understand what tree Cabling is, allow me to explain.

Cabling involves using cables to stabilize an already growing tree to a position in which it can properly grow. If the tree’s growth pattern is unsustainable, then cabling will be required.

Guide To Cabling A Tree

Cabling is a technique used by arborists or other tree maintenance professionals to assist a specimen tree to grow in the right direction.

Cabling is not something that an untrained tree owner can do, it requires a high level of skill and experience to execute. If cabling is not done the right way, it may result in girdling.

An experienced arborist will know exactly how to have the cables installed and positioned on the tree.


Trees by nature are phototrophic, this means they will grow towards the direction where there is more light. Urban environments have more than enough light, so it is common to see trees over-extending in such areas.

Trees that over-extend easily include the red and white oak, as well as pecans. Their limbs are always moving in the direction of light, so it’s common to see them extending beyond the rest of the canopy.

If the limbs are stretched out too far, they will no longer be able to support the weight of the canopy.

Also, trees that weren’t pruned to a good structure in their younger years can produce co-dominant stems. These stems have weak branch unions and most times have an included bark (when the bark is embedded in the branch unions).

Why Can’t I Cable A Tree Myself?

Well, the answer is pretty clear, you aren’t a trained arborist or a tree maintenance expert. This is the job of a certified arborist, so you should leave it to them.

The arborists will evaluate the tree’s health and overall structure, then propose a management plan which is in the best interest of the tree.

Among the arborist’s plans, you will find risk reduction tactics and aesthetics.

An arborist, after assessing a tree risk, will recommend cabling to control its movement, for the sake of protecting people and their properties.

The cables used are made of flexible steel material that is strong enough to withstand the force of the tree’s limbs.

The major aim of installing the cable is to restrict the movements of different parts of the tree. Cabling also helps to support the tree in times of heavy rains and winds.

When Should A Tree Be Cabled?

Some common issues that might require cabling are listed below.

  • Long and heavy branches that the tree can no longer support, or are over-extended
  • Branches or limbs that are hanging over homes and other structures
  • A leaning tree

So Why Not Just Prune The Tree?

This is a good question, and it is an option that should be considered in such instances. However, over-pruning a tree can be bad for the tree’s health. Also, pruning without the right knowledge or experience can slowly kill the tree.

Pruning during the wrong season can also lead to open wounds in the tree. These wounds can eventually lead to rot or decay and attract all sorts of pests to your yard.

If this happens, then you may be forced to remove the tree entirely.

This is not to say that pruning is a bad idea, because it’s not. However, pruning is done to maintain the structure and good looks of the tree. This is one of its many benefits.

Cabling on the other hand is done for support of heavy limbs in cases where pruning won’t be effective. Cabling is also done when the consequences or risks of bad pruning are way too high.

Why Can’t I See The Cable?

The cables are usually fixed high up the tree so it may be difficult to see. Another reason you may not have a clear sight of it is the material it’s made from. It is easy for stainless steel cables to get lost amid bright daytime sunlight.

If you were not present during the installation of the cables, then you may never notice it at all.

Cable Inspection

It is recommended that the cables be inspected regularly. Doing so will let you know if the cables are still in top condition or if they are becoming weak.

Having a weak cable holding a heavy branch is just as dangerous as the branch falling off itself.

Have a certified arborist take a look at your cable at regular intervals to ensure that all is well.

Inspections should be done once every year, and climbing inspection should be done at least once in 5 years.

High-quality stainless steel cables can last for up to 40 years, but this does not mean you should neglect inspection protocol. Besides the cables, there are other parts of the installation materials you also need to check on.

The tree parts being supported by the cables also need to be checked.

If you have a tree that is beginning to grow, it is a good idea to cable it just to make sure it grows with good leverage.

As always, call on a professional arborist to check on your growing tree to see what it needs, cable-wise.

Pros And Cons Of Cabling

Tree cabling has proven to be an effective means of tree support for decades. It can save trees that have monetary, structural, and historical value.

The cables are only a measure to save the tree, but it doesn’t guarantee that the tree will be saved for sure.

Below, I’d like to list out some of the pros and cons that come with using support cables.


  • It reduces the risk of falling limbs
  • It extends tree life
  • It strengthens and maintains the tree structure


  • It will render the tree cable-dependent
  • It involves regular maintenance
  • It increases the cost of removal
  • Installing and modifying the cables is expensive
  • It changes the tree’s dynamics

Is Tree Cabling Worth It?

That depends on you and the value you attach to the tree.

If the tree in question I a historical tree, then you may not want to see it go down. You’d probably do all in your power to save it.

It could also be a tree that’s been in your family for generations, and you’d like to preserve it for your kids and grandkids to see.

Or, the tree may have some kind of monetary value which will be lost if the tree goes down.

Whether cabling is worth it or not boils down to the sentimental attachments you have towards the tree. That question is really up to you to answer.

Why Do We Install Cables?

There are 3 major reasons why trees are cabled. These include –

Prevention: When a tree is cabled, the chances of overgrown limbs on a healthy falling off is reduced.

Preservation: If the tree has historical value then those of concern can make the effort to cable it.

Protection: If a tree is deemed to be dangerous (in terms of falling or leaning over), then cabling is a good means to keep it from damaging property or injuring people.

This is very important if the tree is located in a usually populated area, like a park for example.

Cable Installation Process

The most popular cable installation is known as the “direct cable” installation. It is also known as the simple installation. This process involves one flexible steel that can be installed between two limbs.

Sometimes a tree will need more than one cable, but generally, only one cable is used.

The cables should be installed in a manner which should reduce, but not restrict movements along with the tree’s weaker points.

As I mentioned before, the arborist has to assess the tree before making any decisions regarding cabling. From the assessment, the arborist will determine the hardware needed for installation.

When the arborist is done with the assessment, recommendations will be given.

The climber will then go up the tree and finds a position that is at least two-thirds between the area of vulnerability to the end of the branches.

The point chosen for the installation has to be inspected to ensure that the wood on that area is strong and healthy. If it isn’t, then it wouldn’t be able to hold up the hardware that will support the cable.

Some end weight reduction on the limbs may also be necessary. This can be done by minor pruning of some of the selected branches. Doing this will reduce stress on the weak point.

The next step is to drill a hole slightly wider than the cable through the stems. The cable is then cut to the right length and threaded through the holes.

The cable’s pull has to be in direct line with the vulnerable point. This will provide the best amount of structural support


I trust this tree cabling guide has been informative. Here is a list of cabling equipment that you’ll need for this process.

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